Profile: Jason Parlour, founder of The Therapy Agency

Russell Smith profiles an entrepreneur who runs an agency for complementary therapies
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With a degree in mechanical engineering, it is not surprising to learn that Jason Parlour, 28, is good with his hands. Or that he earns his living with them, albeit not in the way you might guess: Jason is a massage therapist. But he's also an entrepreneur who runs an agency for complementary therapies.

Jason took a gap year before university and spent his time travelling, including a six-month spell in New Zealand. And it was there, in the remote Southern Alps, that he discovered a passion for complementary therapies and began his training. Once back in the UK, the young entrepreneur set up a part-time clinic at his university gym which proved very popular. So much so, that he left university without debt - quite an achievement.

After graduation, Jason came up with the idea of "The Therapy Agency" as a national organisation to promote reputable practitioners of complementary therapies to both private and corporate clients. With a clear gap in the market and a sound business model, Jason attempted to raise the finance he needed, which is when he hit a snag: financiers wouldn't lend to a young person without any assets to secure the loan. "I had no choice but to earn the finance," explains Jason, "and so I worked 15 hours per day, every day, to raise the money I needed."

This dogged determination paid off. In 2002 Jason launched the business and secured his first major contract: the provision of massage therapists at 50 locations for a nationwide campaign to launch Walkers Sensations crisps. Within three months Jason had over 100 therapists on his books and he now has over 300, despite a tough selection process. "We always interview, we always check qualifications and references plus we always seek evaluations from a therapist's previous clients," explains Jason.

And whilst the sophisticated Therapy Agency website makes finding a local therapist easy for private clients, Jason has his sights set on the corporate world. "Stress in the workplace is estimated to cost employers over £600 per employee every year," claims Jason, "while massage is proven to reduce stress and cut sickness absence." It's a powerful marketing message to employers: spend a little on massage therapy to save a lot on employee absence. And it probably makes The Therapy Agency's new "Therapy Vouchers" the cleverest Christmas present for employers to provide this year.

The Therapy Agency (0845 458 1977; www.therapy-agency.co.uk)

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